OK, I guess I have to acknowledge that it’s not a bike computer. It’s a little on the big side and it’s not water resistant. On the other hand, I would never have bought the Garmin nüvi 760 if I hadn’t been exposed to GPS technology through cycling.
I got a Garmin Legend shortly after my kid bought one for cycling and auto use. Since he’s a ham radio operator, he hooked it to send position reports using APRS . His mother was a bit freaked out when she got nearly live reports about how fast he was driving. And then, when it was linked to a satellite photo, she couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t see his car…. She understands the technology now.
Anyway, the Legend opened up a whole new world. Now I was able to plot my rides in advance and not have to worry about paper maps and cue sheets. If I was confused and missed a turn, the GPS would help me find the best way to rejoin the route without backtracking. Best of all, I was now able to record exactly what I did on the ride: here’s where I stopped to rest, here’s where I helped a turtle cross the road (hey, I’m so slow that helping turtles is a form of professional courtesy)…
The Legend gave way to a Garmin GPSMap 60CS, which added color and more memory. (The X model shown here has even more memory and better sensitivity.)
TopoFusion – developed by cyclists
In addition to the Garmin Mapource programs, I use TopoFusion, a mapping program developed by a couple of cyclists. In the days before Google Earth, it was the best way to overlay your GPS track onto topographic or aerial maps (or a combination of the two). It’s also a great analysis tool and gets better every release.
Earlier this year, we headed up to Tallahassee, FL, for the annual TOSRV ride. A coworker had just gotten a great deal on a low-end Magellen GPS and asked if I’d like to play with it. Being a sucker for gadgets, how could I resist?
We found that my handheld units were great for biking, but weren’t that convenient to use in the car: the displays were a little small, they didn’t talk to you and finding addresses and points of interest (POI) wasn’t that easy unless you really knew how to work them.
Even my wife, who isn’t too fond of most of my toys, seemed somewhat impressed with the ease of using a dedicated auto unit.
When we got back, I started looking at features to find a Garmin that I liked. Since I had been happy with their hardware, mapping programs and tech support, I thought I stick with the devil I know. The Nuvi 760 had most of the features I wanted without costing more than I could afford. I paid $360 at a local big box electronics store. If I had a Costco card, I could have saved $10, but I wouldn’t have had it right away. My normal GPS vendor, gpscity.com , couldn’t match the price.
Easy to use
Good things: very intuitive to use. In fact, having prior GPS experience probably made the transition harder because I was looking for features that automotive units don’t have or label differently. Within minutes of unpacking it, I was headed out to a restaurant I had never been to for dinner with the family. With only a few presses on the touchscreen, the correct establishment popped up and I was on my way. The unit correctly pronounced the names of the streets I was to turn on (something that was a bit amusing with the Magellen), including the eatery’s name. Along the way, a traffic congestion alert popped up to let me know there was an accident ahead (after a three-month trial period, the service requires a subscription).
In case of an emergency, you can press the Where Am I? virtual button to see your nearest address, lat and long and the closest major intersection. On the right side of the screen are “buttons” for the nearest emergency services and fuel.
I don’t know if I’ll ever use it as an MP3 player, a photo slide show projector, a currency calculator, a unit converter or a world clock, but I guess it’s comforting to know that I can.
Even though I’m a telecom manager, I hate cell phones with an ardent and purple passion, particularly when used by soccer moms (and dads) in their SUVs less than an elbow’s length away. Having said that, I still had to play with linking the GPS to the Bluetooth on my phone. It worked. Then I disabled it.
Beanbag mount is solid
At first, I thought they had forgotten to ship the windshield suction cup mount because I didn’t find anything in the box that was anywhere as big and clunky as my friend’s mount. Garmin’s mount was tiny and looked like it would do a fine job. I’ve always used Garmin Beanbag mounts with my other units, so I bought one for the Nuvi 760. It does a great job of staying put on my dashboard, even at weird angles. Suction cup marks on your windshield scream, “I have an electronic gizmo in my car. Steal Me, Steal Me.” (And some states prohibit windshield-mounted accessories.)
The Nuvi will allow me to build up to 10 routes. There are times when I want to go a specific way and cheaper models won’t let you do that. Those units will recalculate when you pass their suggested turns, but I want it to go on some back roads sometimes and like to plan the trip in advance.
I REALLY like having the unit tell me the name of the upcoming turn instead of just saying, “Turn left or right.” It’ll even tell you if your destination is on the right or left side of the street. If you aren’t in navigation mode, the name of each upcoming street is displayed at the top of the screen.
The 760 came with 2008 maps loaded in it. When I registered the unit, I was given the opportunity to upgrade to the 2009 version at no charge. (They would have shipped the program to me for $10, but I didn’t want to wait four-six weeks.) Having a high-speed connection paid off: the file was just over 2 gig.
I’ve found Garmin tech support to be excellent. Sometime the wait time on the phone drags a bit, but the folks generally know what they’re talking about. The USB connection on my 60CS came loose out of warranty. When I called to ask how much it would cost to fix, they said they’d take care of it for nothing. You can’t beat that.
Where’s the speedometer?
What don’t I like (or haven’t figured out)? The family Hondas have speedometers that read five miles per hour faster than any GPS I’ve had in the cars, so I like looking at the GPS display for speed. Unfortunately, the Nuvi 760 doesn’t display speed on the map screen when you’re in navigation mode. You have to press a virtual button for the Trip Information Page. Dumb idea. To make it more ironic, when you’re on a major highway, it will sometimes display speed limit info. Gee, don’t you think it would be good to see your speed so you could determine if you’re going to meet your local highway patrol officer up the road?
There are some nice folks in a Yahoo group who made me feel both good and bad about my speed discovery: good because I hadn’t missed something and bad because they confirmed that the unit was performing as designed.
Wrench, then Lips
Oh, yeah, one tip: when I first turned it on, English was the first choice. Somehow or another, I must have hit something on the screen that turned the language choice into characters that didn’t resemble any language I’ve ever used. If that happens, press the Wrench picture, followed by Lips.
I’ll file an update after my first real road trip. So far, I’m pretty happy.